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Electric Car Update

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Toyota plug-in

Looking for an electric car? Today there is a third candidate – the “First Ever” Toyota Plug-in Prius. However, except for the first 10-15 miles, “under certain conditions,” this car is a standard, run-of-the-mill Prius Hybrid. That’s right, plug in the car over night (it takes only 3 hours to charge 1 kWh with 120 volts) and you are authorized to travel up to 15 miles, using your best behavior and “under certain conditions,” you will be powered by electric only (EV mode). Now don’t get me wrong, 10-15 miles using only the sun is a step in the right direction, but come on, why not 25, or at least 20!

The good, if believable, news is that according to the statements released and doing a little math, with a full charge (1 kWh, or $0.16 around here) and you can drive 10 -15 miles! For many that could be their daily errands. Even for me living in fading farm country, I could fill a prescription at Rite-Aid (NW Exit 11), stop at Price Chopper (Exit 12) and then head west on Route 67 to pick up a little material at Curtis Lumber to finish up yet another house project. Home again, total 12.6 miles, and only for a little while was I pressed from behind to go faster. Hey, charge it up and head out again in the evening for dinner with friends! Look ma, no gas!!!

But can the math be true? Most reports I’ve seen indicate mileage for electric vehicles at “about” 4 mpkWh (miles per kWh). So, how does a Prius get 12.5 mpkWh? According to their website,

“The electric motor in the Prius Plug-in is specially calibrated to give you greater fuel efficiency across a variety of driving conditions. And since it operates at an incredibly high rotational speed, it's able to generate more output in a smaller, lighter design—which also helps improve your overall fuel economy.”

Does this explain the 3X improvement? Or must the “certain conditions” be all downhill? Keep it under 15 mph? Or am I missing something? I’m looking forward to a little more transparency here!

And, what do they mean by the battery is: “Built to last for the life of the vehicle?” Does this mean I’ll still get 10-15 miles in 10 to 15 years? Or after ten years do you have just a hybrid Prius?

Still, 10 – 15 miles may be a good option for some people, especially when it is combined with the well earned durability reputation of the current Prius. To get in line for your Toyota Plug-in Prius you must sign up by August 22, 2011. If you do, you “get first dibs” on placing an order later this year. Check out the latest details at:

So now the Toyota Plug-in Prius joins the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt as EV options that will be available in New York within a year. There will be more choices; hopefully one that will be right for you and me.

Please comment; let us know what you think about electric cars in general and the current options.

Dan Gibson is the Reporter and Chief Coordinator of Our Energy Independence Community ( Previously he was a participating contractor in NYSERDA’s Home Performance program and a rater in the New York ENERGY STAR Home program. He is currently building a 100% Solar Home. He can be reached at


Comments on "Electric Car Update"

  1. OEIC default avatar rwsimon October 01, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    There are a number of companies that offer plug-in conversions for hybrids (mostly for Prius) that offer more electric-mode range than the forthcoming Toyota version.  Depending on the product, ranges from 20 to 30 miles are available.  Some of the better-known providers are Hymotion ( and 3prongpower (  Both of these companies have small networks of installers around the country.  The conversions are pricey ($5-10,000), but not particularly more than the differential cost of the Toyota plug-in option for the Prius.  I know of at least one of these that someone in the Albany area has had for a few years.  On the other hand, I have been watching the market for these conversions for several years and see no sign of it growing.

  2. Dan Gibson's avatar Dan Gibson October 04, 2011 at 12:20 pm


    Thank you for the information and comment. Many of our members have a Prius, maybe a local conversion will help them reduce the use of gas! As for the new offering, perhaps Toyota is responding to the aftermarket or as they imply it is just a stopgap until batteries are improved sufficiently to offer longer range, full electric vehicles. In either case, it is a dealer option and may be an option that will be just the ticket for some. As for me, I’m still looking… Cheers, Dan

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